The Minnesota Vikings’ hopes of winning back-to-back division championships took a hit on Sunday as the Detroit Lions won convincingly in New Orleans by a 28-13 score. Now with a two-game division lead – plus the tiebreaker – over Minnesota, Detroit could eliminate the Vikings from NFC North contention as early as Sunday with a win and a Vikings loss.
Here is the Lions’ remaining schedule:
vs Chicago Bears
@ Dallas Cowboys
@ New York Giants
vs Green Bay Packers
Even if the Vikings win out, Detroit would only be required to win two of its remaining games to oust the Purple, though Green Bay still lurks with the same record as Minnesota and could capture the tiebreaker over Detroit with a Week 17 win, but as far as Minnesota is concerned, the best path looks to be through the Wild Card. Here are the standings at the moment.
It’s possible that a 9-7 record could get some team into the NFC playoffs, but it’s unlikely the Vikings could be that team. Why? Tiebreakers.
First of all, the Vikings would lose head-to-head tiebreakers against Detroit (as mentioned), Philadelphia (5-7) and Washington (6-5-1, unlikely to be tied).
It’s possible that a 9-7 record could get some team into the NFC playoffs, but it’s unlikely the Vikings could be that team.
Then there’s the group that the Vikings didn’t play head to head: New Orleans, Atlanta and Tampa Bay. In each case, a tie at 9-7 would leave Minnesota on the short end of the stick in the conference record tiebreaker. The Vikings have benefited from playing a lackluster AFC South, beating Tennessee and Houston, and may very well defeat Jacksonville and Indianapolis to get back into the playoff picture, but the best Minnesota can finish in NFC games is 6-6, which would not be good enough to win a tiebreaker, assuming the Saints, Falcons or Bucs won enough games to reach nine total victories.
Basically, it’s not impossible to sneak into the playoffs at 9-7, but it would require a great deal of help. New York would have to lose three of four. Tampa Bay would have to lose three of four. Washington would have to lose two of four. Green Bay would have to lose at least one — probably two — games, depending on how the battle against Minnesota goes in Week 16. And you’d have to pray one team out of the Arizona, New Orleans, Philadelphia group doesn’t run the table.
No, the Vikings will likely need to win out and reel in one of the current Wild Card leaders.
It would, of course, be easy to catch Washington, who is merely a half game ahead of the Vikings, but catching the Redskins doesn’t do any good if Tampa Bay and the New York Giants possess the two Wild Card spots. The Vikings must catch one of them in addition to Washington.
Coming out of nowhere, the suddenly-resurgent Bucs could be a tough hurdle to overcome. They’ve got a full game lead in the standings and a likely tiebreaker in their back pocket. Tampa Bay finishes with New Orleans, Dallas, New Orleans again and Carolina, a relatively easy stretch with the exception of Dallas.
It may behoove Vikings fans to cheer for Detroit when they play the Giants two weeks from now.
The Giants (8-4) are two games clear of Minnesota, but the Vikings have the gift of a head-to-head tiebreaker against New York, who the Vikings beat in Week 4. New York hosts Dallas and Detroit before visiting Philadelphia and Washington to end the season – all difficult games. It may behoove Vikings fans to cheer for Detroit when they play the Giants two weeks from now.
As you might expect, Vikings players asserted Tuesday that they are only focused on this Sunday’s game at Jacksonville and not at the scoreboard-watching stage of the season yet. “You can’t worry about something you can’t control,” said Adam Thielen.
Keep checking in to ColdOmaha.com for updated playoff scenarios as the final quarter of the season begins.